Leukemia, a cancer of blood cells
Leukemia is a cancer that starts in the bone marrow (soft tissue inside most bones) of the body. When you are healthy, your bone marrow produces white blood cells, platelets and red blood cells. As you know, white blood cells fight infection, platelets help in clotting blood and red lood cells carry Oxygen all over the body. This production of cells occurs in a regulated manner, involving a number of concerted processes in the body.
Ever imagine what would happen if the bone marrow decided to ‘malfunction’? Or if platelets, red blood cells or white blood cells decided to go on mutiny? Research has shown that abnormal white blood cells, that don’t stop growing leads to Leukemia. The condition progressively worsens, when leukemia cells spread to lymph nodes and other organs, resulting in pain and swelling.Ever imagine what would happen if the bone marrow decided to ‘malfunction’?
Yes, Leukemia comes in 2 flavors
Leukemia is divided into two major types, chronic & acute.
Chronic leukemia: At an early stage, leukemia cells function as normal white cells, hence the symptoms aren’t obvious. But when these cancerous cells in the blood increase, symptoms start showing up such as swollen lymph nodes and infections. The situation is usually mild at an early stage but eventually worsens.
Acute leukemia: In this case, leukemia cells grow rapidly and make you sick immediately. So symptoms are seen as soon as you get affected.
There are certain risk factors that might be a reason behind leukemia. You might get affected if you:
Are Exposed to Radiation
People who are more exposed to high level of radiation is more prone to get leukemia. High levels of radiation can be caused due to atomic bomb explosions, radiation therapy and X-rays.
Smoking (both active and passive) increases the risk of getting acute leukemia. Both cigarette smoke and slip stream smoke are known to contain numerous carcinogens that accumulate in the body and progressively blossom in to cancer.
Are On Chemotherapy
Ironically, Cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy or other cancer medication are also under risk of developing further cancer.
Are Down with Downs syndrome
Down syndrome and other genetic problems can also be a cause behind leukemia.
Exposed to Benzene and Friends
Exposure to chemicals like Benzene and other aromatic chemicals at the workplace (cigarette and gasoline industries) can also cause leukemia.
Symptoms of Leukemia
Because white blood cells stop fighting against infections, the body’s immunity goes down and hence, risk of getting infection rises. The growth of abnormal leukemia cells can also result in anemia and might be a major reason behind weakness and fatigue. Loss of our fighters “the white blood cells” disturbs the mechanism and functioning of a normal system, resulting in symptoms as follows:
- Fever, chills, and other flu-like symptoms;
- Weakness and fatigue;
- Frequent infections;
- Loss of appetite and/or weight;
- Swollen or tender lymph nodes, liver, or spleen;
- Easy bleeding or bruising;
- Tiny red spots (called petechial) under the skin;
- Swollen or bleeding gums;
- Sweating, especially at night; and/or
- Bone or joint pain.
Treatments for Leukemia
Chemotherapy is given either by a pill or through an injection. This method kills the ability of cells to grow abnormally but as it also affect normal cells; you might face nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, fatigue and hair loss as side effects of this treatment.
Stem Cell Transplant
Yes, high strength chemotherapy destroys leukemia cells but it also affects bone marrow cells. So before the high dose is given, stem cells are taken from a donor body which has a close match to yours. After the treatment, the stem cells are transplanted to your body for normal functioning. Gradually, stem cells will start producing blood cells, naturally.
External or internal beam radiation therapy is also used to treat leukemia. In external therapy, a radioactive material is placed near the tumor while in external one; the radiation destroys the cells in the path of the beam, including the normal cells. This therapy is given depending upon the stage and type of cancer. Radiations in mouth can make your mouth sore and dry and you can have difficult in swallowing. These side-effects will fade eventually, once the normal cells repair themselves back.
This therapy uses your own body’s resources to boost up your immune system to fight against the illness. You might face some side-effects including nausea, vomiting, chills and fever but these side effects will gradually disappear once the treatment is finished.
This therapy uses drugs that destroy cancer cells, without affecting healthy cells. Cancer growth inhibitors are a type of targeted therapy. This therapy inhibits cancerous cells from growing and dividing, hence controlling uncontrollable growth.
This method is often used to treat leukemia. The surgeons remove the entire lump and also nearby affected tissues around. Leukemia can cause an enlarged spleen (located in the abdomen and is attached to the stomach) and an enlarged spleen can lead to pain and discomfort. So, the surgery also removes spleen, the procedure is known as splenectomy.
Yes, acceptable that my sympathizing conclusion won’t help you fight this scary ailment. But yes, this blog can certainly help you in an early detection and with an apt treatment to recover better. I am not suggesting you to give up the zeal for living, but yes, I will certainly advise you to adopt a healthy lifestyle for you and your family’s happiness.